Good news for music lovers hoping to salvage something from the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra's disastrous, strike-marred season: The April 24 concert featuring pianist Paavali Jumppanen will proceed as planned. The musicians agreed to perform it in what they're calling a good-faith gesture.
But there's more scheduled for April 24. That's also when the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra says musicians must respond to its "last, best, final offer" to end the dispute, issued March 23. And that's not the only deadline. Chamber Orchestra executive director Doug Gerhart says the musicians must say by April 22 whether they will play the group's Concerts on the Square series, which begins June 24.
"We're going ahead with the plan," says Gerhart of the summer series. If the Chamber Orchestra does not get a satisfactory response from the musicians by the deadline, Gerhart notes, "We will explore other options." He won't say what those options might be.
If the striking musicians don't perform the series, "They'd be hard-pressed to find people to play," says bassoonist Todd Jelen, chair of the musicians' negotiating committee. "There's no way they're going to get an orchestra. One of the great things about our union is that no one's going to risk their long-term career to cross the picket line."
Arguably the city's most visible fine arts events, Concerts on the Square are a boon to civic life, and its patrons are a boon to downtown business owners. For the Pinckney Street restaurant the Old Fashioned, for example, "It's fantastic," says co-owner Tami Lax. "We do food to go, picnic baskets." Lax observes that her other restaurant, nearby Harvest, doesn't get as big a boost because its kitchen is too small to handle large crowds.
Even so, she says of the strike, "I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they work it out."